Church websites that reach non-Christians
Help for church webmasters
Church websites are an essential part of local churches’ public profiles to their communities. Indeed, in some parts of the world, church websites draw more people into face-to-face church activities than any other method. Church sites outnumber all other types of Christian sites by a ratio of 5 to 1. Church sites could therefore be powerful outreach tools. However, research reveals a discouraging picture:
- most church sites are written purely for their members, using ‘religious insider’ content style and religious language.
- many do not create a sense of welcome to outsiders or include any material that they would perceive as relevant to them.
- either they do not provide any hint about the life-changing Gospel; or else they present it in heavy-handed terms which may be ‘too much, too soon’, a counter-productive ‘Bible-bashing’.
Strategies for effective church sites include:
- a natural informal sense of welcome, even humor, throughout the site.
- lack of insider ‘churchy’ language and jargon.
- photos showing not only the church building exterior, but also interior shots including people; these will help prospective visitors feel the church is familiar even before they first visit the physical building.
- church members photos and profiles, some prominently displayed on the home-page. These may not be full testimonies in the normal sense. Instead, they may be introductions to some real church members with background to their lives: hobbies, jobs, pets and other personal details.
- Bible explanations for pre-Christians.
- Online leading to face-to-face support for recovery from life problems (divorce, alcohol/substance abuse, bereavement etc.)
- Age-specific content (children, teens, seniors)
- clear directions with online map to find the church, where to park, public transportation links.
- a sense of identification with the local community, in terms of secular news, photos, links; this can also draw in website visitors.
You don’t have to be technical!Maybe you think that your church has no members with the time or technical webmaster gifts to create a website. Happily, there is an easy alternative. A number of groups offer ready-made church sites using a template design – i.e. a preformed standard ‘shell’. You simply add your own text to the site by typing or pasting text into easy-to-use ‘text boxes’ on a special editing web-page. Here’s an example of a church site built with one of these systems: Bethlehem Lutheran.
Many of these template systems can create very attractive and flexible church sites. Take time to research the different systems available before choosing.
- 70+ essential tips – how to make or transform a church site to reach the community. You can insert this page into your own site by copy/pasting some easy code onto your page.
- Self-assessment questionnaire tool – take the test and analyze your site’s ability to reach out into the community.
- Effective Church Websites for Emerging Generations – essential and insightful article on the best church site strategy.
- Reaching your Community Through a Church Website – 73-minute video seminar, a highly recommended case study of a church site which made outreach its first priority.
- Great Church Websites – a comprehensive resource for all church webmasters: with a free discussion forum, tips, and (for a small once-only payment, or free to forum users) a gallery of 500 well-designed church sites, drawn from 10,000+ that writer David Gillaspay has reviewed. You can learn from what others are doing – both things to profit from, and to avoid.
- ELCA Tips – Evangelical Lutheran tips for church websites.
- 10 Easy Ways – to Keep Me from Visiting Your Church Because I Visited Your Website. Tips from Grainger church leader.
- How to Build a Good Church Website – advice from Church123, a church site provider in UK.
- Tips – Tips from ChurchEdit
- Heal Your Church Site – errors to avoid, examples to follow; you can subscribe to updates on this blog site by RSS, or view it on our blog page.
- Webinar – 3 short audio presentations (from a church site provider) explaining the importance of a church site, and the potential and nature of the Web. Good to use as a presentation for a church leadership team wondering whether to start a church site. The first two presentations are a valuable general overview, the last focuses on their own resources too. (This Flash presentation will take a short time to become visible on a dialup connection.)
- Internet Evangelism Kit – ready-made outreach section to add to a church site.
- Strategy for the Church on the Net – thoughts on the potential of church sites; and Netville church site – ‘before and after’ tutorial based on the imaginary Netville site.
- Church Insight – valuable free ‘Best Practice’ articles from this resource ministry and church site provider. Their monthly email newsletter, and RSS Best Practice feed, are worth subscribing.
- Also, for general help/encouragement to pastors, we recommend the weekly email Ministry Toolbox.
- Off-topic alert – how to ensure electric safety in baptism pools.